Life on the Go With MS

Medically Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on April 19, 2017
From the WebMD Archives

You've got things to do and places to go, and no time for MS to slow you down. Check out these ideas to get comfortable and stay on the move -- on foot, in your car, or on a scooter.

Good Shoes

The right shoes can make walking a lot easier. They can help you manage symptoms like muscle stiffness, numbness, and balance problems.

"While there are plentiful options of shoes in the market, it is important to choose comfort and efficiency over style," says Nora Wagner, a physical therapist at Loyola University Health System.

Look for:

Light weight. Lighter shoes are easier on your legs and save you energy. You'll also clear the ground more easily, which makes it less likely that you'll trip and fall.

Velcro fasteners. They're better than laces because they make it easier to put your shoes on and take them off. Adjust them for a secure custom fit.

Wide, low heels. They make it easier for you to keep your balance. Choose one that's 1.5 inches tall or less.

Also, the bottom of your heels should be solid, not soft. Avoid flimsy shoes like flip-flops and slingbacks.

Good tread. It can help you navigate uneven surfaces like grass and gravel if you have numbness or balance problems, says Loyola University physical therapist Prem Batchu-Green.

Avoid shoes with heavy tread, which create extra friction and can make your foot drag.

 Proper fit. If your shoes are too big, it's harder to keep your balance, Wagner says. If they're too small, you may get swelling and a heavy feeling in your feet. The ideal size is about a half-inch longer than your longest toe.

Car Accessories

Special equipment you install in your car can make driving easier and keep you behind the wheel longer.

They include:

Hand controls. You can accelerate and apply the brake with your hands instead of your feet.

Digital driving rings, joysticks, or other devices. These high-tech gadgets make it easier to control the gas and brake.

Spinner knob. It's attached to the steering wheel to make it easier to turn.

Extra mirrors. Wide-angle rearview mirrors and larger side mirrors can help you see better. That helps if you have trouble turning your head.

Lift. It can help you stow your scooter or wheelchair in your car.

Special seats. They make it easier to get in and out of your car.

Fully equipped vans. They may have a lower floor and a ramp or lift for your motorized scooter or wheelchair.

An occupational therapist or driver rehabilitation specialist can help you decide which accessories are best for you and train you to use them properly. She will also evaluate your ability to drive safely.

Service Animals

Highly trained service animals can help you get around safely and perform tasks to make your daily life easier.

A service dog can help you stand, balance, and walk. He can safely guide you when you're at home and when you're out. He can help you navigate crosswalks, high-traffic areas, and crowded places like malls and parks.

You'll also be able to save energy when your service dog does things for you such as:

  • Retrieve objects
  • Open and close doors
  • Turn lights on and off
  • Pull your wheelchair

If you don't need full-time help from a caregiver or you want more independence, a service dog is a good choice.

Motorized Scooter

Scooters help you get around without needing help and without falling. They can also save your energy, especially when you're going a long distance. "So when you get to where you're going, you can get up and do what you want to do," says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

They can make shopping easier. Scooters are good for places that usually require a lot of walking, like the zoo or a museum. They can even make activities like golf, bowling, and tennis possible.

A scooter is a great alternative to a wheelchair, especially if you can walk but don't have the stamina to go more than a few steps or minutes, Batchu-Green says. It can be helpful if you've lost some upper body strength and get tired from using your arms to move yourself in a wheelchair.

Scooters are battery-powered. You operate them with hand controls. Many can be disassembled and stowed in your car.

Show Sources

Rosalind Kalb, PhD, National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Matthew McCoyd, MD, neurologist, MS specialist, Loyola University Medical Center.

Prem Batchu-Green, physical therapist, Loyola University Medical Center.

Nora Wagner, physical therapist, Loyola University Health System.

Momentum, the magazine of the National MS Society: "No glass slippers: What to look for in footwear."

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Staying Mobile," "Driving with Multiple Sclerosis," "How to Choose the Mobility Device that is Right for You."

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